Office bullies target the educated: Report

Bullies aren’t just kids in the playground anymore — they are also adults in the workplace, or lurking online.

As anti-bullying advocates try to push through new legislation at the state level, several new studies have found that bullying affects different people in different ways. In the workplace, bullying is more likely to target educated employees, while victims of online abuse are more likely to feel depressed and isolated.

An estimated 53.5 million Americans are reportedly bullied at work, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

The non-profit organization released their 2010 Workplace Bullying Survey this month based on interviews of over 6,000 adults in August, along with data comparing the recent survey with one they conducted in 2007.

Women bullying women is becoming more common at work

“There are many myths and misconceptions about workplace bullying advanced by disbelievers and opponents,” said the institute’s research director Dr. Gary Namie. “One portrayal is that bullying affects only the uneducated, unskilled workers.”

The participants were asked about experiencing mistreatment, sabotage, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation or humiliation at work, with 11 percent of workers with a college degree — and 7 percent of those without — responding that they are currently bullied in the workplace.

“Note that the respondents with more formal education reported a higher bullying rate,” added Namie.  “Not having a college degree was associated with a higher denial of bullying rate. Myth busted.”

Dr. Gary Namie

Dr. Gary Namie

Bullying, according to the organization, is “mistreatment severe enough to compromise a targeted worker’s health, jeopardize her or his job and career, and strain relationships with friends and family. It is a laser-focused, systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction. It has nothing to do with work itself. It is driven by the bully’s personal agenda and actually prevents work from getting done. It begins with one person singling out the target. Before long, the bully easily and swiftly recruits others to gang up on the target, which increases the sense of isolation.”

Writing on the institute’s website, Namie says that workplace bullies are “narcissistic” and “defensive,” and often target people who are effective, popular and helpful on the job — but who also may not be subservient, or not “sufficiently political.”

Among students, a survey by the National Institutes of Health found that depression is high among 6th to 10th graders who have been bullied through computers or cell phones.

“Notably, cyber victims reported higher depression than cyber bullies or bully-victims, which was not found in any other form of bullying,” the study authors wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Bullies are teenagers, too.

They also report that “unlike traditional bullying which usually involves a face-to-face confrontation, cyber victims may not see or identify their harasser; as such, cyber victims may be more likely to feel isolated, dehumanized or helpless at the time of the attack.”

Bullying has been in the news lately because of the rise of teen suicides and deaths within the LGBT community.

States such as New York and Massachusetts recently passed anti-bullying legislation to protect children in the public schools.

Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute is also directing a program to put similar protections in place at the state level for workers, via the Healthy Workplace Bill.

The proposed law was drafted by the Boston-based legal scholar David Yamada — but while it has been introduced in 17 U.S. states, has yet to be passed in any.

In Canada, the province of Saskatchewan banned workplace bullying in October 2007 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

By Lemery Reyes/



Education & Workplace Bullying: 2010 WBI Survey
Workplace Bullying Institute, September 17, 2010

Results of the 2010 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Workplace Bullying Institute

What is bullying?

Depression high among youth victims of school cyber bullying, NIH researchers report
National Institutes of Health, September 21, 2010

Healthy Workplace Bill

Saskatchewan bans workplace bullying

David Yamada, Esq.

Gay activist: Bullying shows continuing battle for acceptance, October 5, 2010

5 thoughts on “Office bullies target the educated: Report

  1. My name is Aja and I’m a producer for NBC Universal. I am currently working on a pilot dealing with the subject of bullying. I would love to get in contact with the parents of a child who committed suicide because he/she was bullied. This program will never actually air on television. If someone could please get back to me I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time.


    Aja Rychalsky

  2. Great article and good to see there is more awareness about bullying in the workplace for adults, and woman perpetrators! Gee why can’t we just be nice to one another! I have personally experienced this type of behavior in a past workplace and have been beaten down by it as well.

    As a child I never been bullied or picked on to any degree that affected my life atleast. As a professional and adult I have had my world turned upside down by collegues that sabotaged my work ethics, intimidation tactics and other bullying behaviours. To the extreme I had to leave work for months to try and see what exactly what was going on. Because antoher thing with adult bullies they often are not so easy to identify, atleast mine wasn’t.

    It’s truly not a good feeling or position to be in and I have sympathy for those who struggle in these environments. My advice that has served me well is the same as I tell my daughter, when you are being bullied call it what it is and address the problem without violence. Adult Bullies are the same as Childhood Bullies, once you stand up to them, shame them for their behavior they will back off! But if you allow it to continue it will!

  3. Workplace bullying is very insidious. Not only does it create an atmosphere of fear and mistrust but it also hides or masks other workplace ills like race,sex,age,disability and religious discrimination. This is particularly true when statistically people of color tend to have high bully victim rates.

    this statement, “Note that the respondents with more formal education reported a higher bullying rate,” added Namie. “Not having a college degree was associated with a higher denial of bullying rate. Myth busted.” is right on target! In fact, my research and experience shows the opposite to be true. Bullies are usually those who have no college degree or true qualifications and training for the positions they hold.

    Thus they are intimidated by new career seekers and employees coming into their “turf” who have the accreditation, certification or qualification that more closely matches the position. This statement, “the bully easily and swiftly recruits others to gang up on the target, which increases the sense of isolation.” may also contain a component I call (MRB) management remote bullying.

    This is a situation involving a bullying manager either recruiting or bullying a subordinate who is also a bully to bully a victim. I have experienced this phenomenon firsthand, which I believe is distinct from the bully boss or corporate bullying environments.

  4. I am a victim of workplace bullying. The bully is well educated and thorough in her job. She is not liked by any co-workers, but I am sure they would not do anything about her bullying. I know that I am number 8 in a relatively short timespan. Nobody can work with her.

  5. It comes down to basic psychology, all about the illusion of control and dominance. Bullies usually see their victims as a threat, but possibly as a threat that doesn’t realise their potential, and the bullies are scared that this person will realise their potential and become the focus of the colleague’s attention (a position which may have previously been enjoyed by the bully).

    Also it depends on what kind of person you are, the myth of “the quiet kids get bullied” is true to it’s word, the quiet KIDS get bullied, but as I’ve gotten older and hardened from having stood up to these people as a kid, I now have little difficulty ripping these people apart as an adult, as I can usually read them like books and know every gap in their armour, beneath which lies a squirming coward.